Senior Wellness: Tips for Avoiding the Holiday Blues
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Senior Wellness: Tips for Avoiding the Holiday Blues

While the holidays are usually thought of as a festive and joyful season of the year, the reality is they can be tough for many older adults. Seniors may struggle with mental health for many reasons—from grieving lost loved ones to health problems that limit their ability to participate in family gatherings—when everyone around them seems to be celebrating.

If you feel like you might be at risk, we have a few suggestions to help you prevent or beat a case of the holiday blues.

6 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

1. Limit carb consumption: When you are feeling a little down, comfort foods can be very appealing. They usually smell and taste great. Unfortunately, comfort foods tend to be high in carbs. That means while you might initially feel better, you will likely end up more tired in the long run. Instead of reaching for carb-laden foods, choose nutrient-dense meals that include fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, and lean protein. They will give you more energy, which can help raise your spirits.

2. Avoid alcohol: While a glass of wine or an evening cocktail might seem comforting, the reality is that alcohol is a depressant. It can exacerbate a case of the blues. In addition, when you consume too many alcoholic beverages, you likely aren’t drinking enough water. That can lead to dehydration, which contributes to feelings of sluggishness.

3. Spend time with nature: When the winter winds blow and snow covers the ground, it can be tempting to hibernate until spring. While that’s understandable, it isn’t great for your mental or physical well-being. Weather and health permitting, bundle up and pull on a pair of skid-proof boots. Heading outdoors to soak up nature can give your spirit the boost it needs. Even 15 minutes on a bench in your garden can help. If you aren’t able to get outside, bird-watching is a great way to connect with nature. A bird feeder that attaches to your window is a good way to bring feathered friends to you. Some models even have a camera that allows for close-up views of the birds who visit your feeder.

4. Get a good night’s sleep: Both the blues and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can cause sleep problems. People who are struggling with either might not be getting enough sleep or find themselves sleeping too much. Try to stick with a consistent sleep schedule that allows for 7–8 hours of quality sleep each night. Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day. If insomnia or other sleep problems persist, talk with your primary care doctor. They may make a referral to a sleep clinic for further follow-up.

5. Find ways to connect: While you may be stuck inside more, you don’t have to lose touch with friends and family. Staying connected helps prevent loneliness and isolation, which are linked to health issues like depression and heart disease. Platforms like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime allow for a near face-to-face conversation. You can even use one of these technologies to read to the grandkids in another state or have a group chat with friends.